RSA-227 for FY-2020: Submission #1133

Rhode Island
09/30/2020
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Disability Rights Rhode island
33 Broad Street
Suite 601
Providence
RI
02903
http://www.drri.org
401-831-3150
800-733-5332
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Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
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Additional Information
Catherine Sansonetti
Catherine Sansonetti
401-831-3150
csansonetti@drri.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
1
0
0
0
1
3
5
B. Training Activities
2
85
Disability Rights Rhode Island (DRRI) training activities are often funded by more than one funding source, including CAP. This provides an opportunity to broadly present agency trainings, as well as disseminate information and materials, to audiences that are made up of overlapping constituencies including providers, consumers, families, youth, underserved and unserved groups, and others. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to do many in-person trainings that we had scheduled this year. Prior to March, 2020, and before COVID-19 local guidance restricted in person gatherings to reduce community spread, DRRI trainings using CAP and other funds included the events listed below.

On November 17, 2020, we trained VR transition counselors who are focused on transition, as well as those counselors who work with individuals with intellectual disabilities who work to implement the VR portion of the RI Department of Justice consent decree. The topic of this training was on the relatively new Supported Decision-Making (SDM) law in Rhode Island, as this issue can arise in the VR context when a person is applying for services or when engaging with VR to obtain VR services. SDM agreements could be used in the VR context by individuals with disabilities who need decision-making assistance by a supportive family member or other person. This training was attended by approximately 25 VR counselors who regularly interact with transition-age youth.

On January 9, 2020, we conducted an in-person training about CAP services and about DRRI services to the leadership of the VR agency, as well as to VR counselors and other VR staff of the state VR agency. At this training, we used a power-point presentation about CAP services and DRRI services and presented to approximately 60 VR staff.

On January 9, 2020, we trained Portsmouth School District staff, parents and consumers on Supported Decision Making. There were 15 attendees.

On January 23, 2020 we trained school staff, parents and Consumers at the Northern RI Transition Advisory Council. There were 20 attendees.

On May 25, 2020, we held a virtual training over Zoom to an audience of 60 attendees at the RI Parent Information Network. The topic was Supported Decision-Making and Alternatives to Guardianship.

DRRI also disseminates information about CAP services while at training and outreach events. Events where CAP information was disseminated this year included the following. The RI Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s Annual Coffee Hour which had 150 attendees, Tech Access of RI’s Assistive Technology Conference with 500 attendees, and at the Westbay Collaborative Transition Event with 50 attendees.
C. Agency Outreach
DRRI staff continue to disseminate our Consumer's Guide to Rhode Island State Vocational Rehabilitation. We last updated this guide’s content after the passage of WIOA. In 2018, we broadly distributed the update in both English and Spanish to VR counselors and staff, parent information networks, college disability services offices, providers of mental health services, and providers of developmental disabilities services. We specifically outreached to traditionally underserved groups such as transition-aged youth with behavioral healthcare needs and others who might benefit from VR’s PRE-ETS services. In FFY2019 and FFY2020 we continued outreach using the booklets at events and trainings. This year, however, our previously scheduled outreach to new groups that serve individuals in the Hispanic community were cancelled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These outreach events included community health workers, as well as Spanish speaking parent groups in low-income and Hispanic communities. Although these in-person trainings and outreach were halted due to the pandemic, we hope to be able to connect with these groups in FY2021 either in person or virtually.

In general, DRRI distributes English and Spanish copies of CAP publications at outreach/training events, and also provides copies upon request. At in person outreach and training events for early FFY2020, DRRI distributed about 28 English copies. We also use a CAP flyer (in both English and Spanish) that were also updated in FY2020 to reflect our new name and logo. We distributed 60 such CAP flyers at an in-person training event at the VR agency to VR employees to be shared with their applicants and clients. DRRI publications are also available for download on our website.

DRRI’s legal advocate is available to assist the DRRI intake department with calls in Spanish and also assists with written translations as needed. In FFY2020 we began to also use the service of Language Line for translation services for calls to our intake department. We use this on-demand resource to assist callers whose preferred language is not English. The DRRI website, which had 3,532 views from 1,436 visitors, also uses Google Translate, which enables translation into many foreign languages.
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
0
0
0
1112
3
20
Although not specific to CAP, the agency was featured in over 20 news articles and blogs. These articles covered voter information, the DOJ-RI Consent Decree, COVID-19 and equal access to hospital care, and the DRRI lawsuit to end solitary confinement for inmates with mental illness.
E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
DRRI’s presence continues on government and community organization websites through hyperlinks on their pages. These page hyperlinks send visitors to our website directly and/or provide DRRI contact information. These organizations include, but are not limited to, the RI.gov government website, the state VR agency (the Office of Rehabilitation Services (ORS), the RI Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH), the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council, the Sherlock Center on Disabilities, and the Rhode Island Parent Information Center (RIPIN).

In addition, last year DRRI began to use social media and followers of the DRRI Facebook and Twitter pages share our postings on social media pages for other individuals and organizations. We have over 217 likes on Facebook with 137 shares of our posts. Our Twitter has 179 followers with 70 retweets of our posts and 30 mentions. DRRI also began an email list using the Constant Contact platform. DRRI had 18 email campaigns with a target audience of 2000-3000 individuals.
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
13
8
21
0
13
B. Problem areas
0
4
11
0
0
3
1
0
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
2
0
1
0
0
0
3
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
2
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
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E. Results achieved for individuals
1
0
0
0
0
2
0
0
0
0
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Part III. Program Data
A. Age
0
3
6
10
2
21
B. Gender
6
15
21
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
2
0
0
1
0
17
0
1
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
1
0
0
3
1
2
0
0
0
2
2
2
0
0
1
1
4
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
21
E. Types of Individuals Served
4
0
8
1
0
2
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
1
i. CAP Participation in an Ad Hoc Committee of the SRC to revise the VR Customer Satisfaction Survey.
Last year, as well as this year, CAP (in conjunction with the SRC) worked with the VR agency to produce a monthly survey to send to consumers. This survey replaced an earlier survey and creates a new method of quality assurance to assess service delivery to customers. It is estimated that the surveys will reach between 1600 and 1800 individuals. Although the agency had been using surveys for quite some time, they had not been updated in many years. We suggested breaking down the survey to be conducted to two groups. The first group of consumers that the survey would be sent to are those in Status 18 (a person who has an IPE in place) and the other group of consumers that the survey would be sent to are those in Status 22 (a person who has successfully completed VR services and is employed). We also advocated for the surveys to be sent in Spanish as well as English in order to reach the large Spanish speaking population in Rhode Island to ensure the participation of underserved and unserved consumers. The surveys began to be disseminated to consumers in April 2019. We made several suggestions about the process of survey dissemination, format, questions, and follow up intervals. The VR agency agreed to send out the survey monthly to consumers whose last names begin with certain letters. This is so that each consumer does not receive a survey more than once a year. We worked with VR to develop surveys that were not asking for multiple responses in order to streamline collection of the data, and CAP (as a member of the SRC) will receive quarterly updates on the survey responses. We followed up in 2020 on the progress of the surveys and the responses to them. Although the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person collaboration impossible, the ad hoc committee remained committed to evaluation of the survey data. After completing one year’s worth of the new surveys, the committee met to revise and update the surveys so that the VR agency could make necessary adjustments to obtain data that would better help consumers. The joint efforts of VR and the committee resulted in a survey that had a 16% better response rate for the year over the last survey year. However, the VR agency reported that as the survey continued, responses decreased, so the committee continued to work with the VR agency to make improvements by revising the survey questions and the order of questions within the survey to increase response rates. As a result, the response rate to surveys was 38%, which the VR agency reported to be a very strong response rate to surveys and would likely produce good data. In the coming months, the committee will continue to evaluate the data response.

ii. VR Policies and Order of Selection/Wait List
In FFY2020, CAP did not provide any comments on VR policies, as the agency did not propose to change any policies in FFY2020.
In prior years, we have commented on the effect of the implementation of the Order of Selection and the agency’s waitlist. We advocated in early FFY2018 that the agency implement a transparent process regarding the waiting list and be transparent in how individuals would learn about their status. We have continued to follow up with the agency at joint VR and CAP meetings that occur during the year. We continued to advocate for transparency for the waitlist, which resulted in VR giving regular updates at the State Rehabilitation Council meetings and upon request. The agency recently reported that its waitlist had dwindled and that it would be able to serve more clients. We also continue advocate for the use of PRE-ETS services for those who would be entitled to PRE-ETS services as a way to not only prevent others from potentially having to wait for service, but also to outreach to individuals who may be traditionally underserved or unserved such as students with behavioral health concerns. The VR agency continues to promote PRE-ETS services in the high schools and elsewhere.

iii. State Rehabilitation Council
In FY2019 we stepped into a leadership role on the SRC as Vice-Chair. We work in collaboration with the Chair, who is a private practice vocational rehabilitation professional and the Chair of the VR Masters program at an area college. We continued into FY2020 in this role. We also retained the position of Chair of the Policy, State Plan, and Quality Assurance Subcommittee, where we educate other members of the council as to the VR requirements and comment on policy changes made by the agency. In addition, as noted above, we participated in an ad hoc committee that assists the VR agency with a new survey format that changed the agency’s practice and procedure for obtaining customer feedback and which resulted in greater survey response rate. We also participate in the Comprehensive Needs Assessment by participating in a work group dedicated to formulating the survey for Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRPs). This effort was done remotely with a series of Zoom meetings and email collaboration and resulted in a suggested format that we think will assist VR with its responsibilities for the Comprehensive Needs Assessment.

iv. Advocacy for Pre-Employment Transition Services
Last year, we reported that we were monitoring a segregated special education school as part of a larger multi-grant project. In FY 2019 as part of our larger, multi-grant project, we began the process of investigating a second school, a self-contained program run by district for students in grades 4-12 with behavioral needs. We have visited the school and spoken with its new director regarding the students’ access to transition services and job training. The school has several vocational programs for the general student population, have been evaluating the integration of students from the self-contained program into those vocational programs. We have also been evaluating the students’ access to vocational rehabilitation and transition services. In FY2020, we will conduct another follow up visit this fiscal year and report our finding to the district by the middle of the fiscal year. In FY 2020 we continued our investigation of the segregated school we began investigating in FY 2019. We continued our interviews of parents of students and former students of the program. As a follow up to our prior visit we met with and discussed the program with the program's Clinical Director and the district's Director of Special Education, and recommended increased opportunities for integration.

v. Distribution of the VR Guide
For over 15 years, our publication A Consumer’s Guide to Services from the Rhode Island Office of Rehabilitation Services has been widely disseminated at events and trainings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the guide was not disseminated as widely as in prior years. However, the Guide, which is still available in both English and Spanish is available on the DRRI website for download. We had hoped to update the Guide in FY2020 but due to agency resources were not able to do so. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we may want to evaluate the needs of consumers post-pandemic and revise the Guide accordingly in the future.
B. Litigation
2
0
0
We reported in the two prior years that we had become concerned about the VR agency’s fee schedule for postsecondary education and graduate school. We previously represented a client at an administrative hearing after the VR agency refused to provide full tuition support for a graduate degree. As we reported last year, the agency’s decision was upheld by a state administrative hearing office and CAP appealed to state court where the matter was pending assignment to a Superior Court Judge for decision. Since that time, we received a court decision which upheld the state’s determination that it could cap tuition amounts. Although we did not prevail on the client’s ultimate issue, we did represent her throughout and negotiated some aspects of her case successfully outside the litigation, such as VR agreeing to provide rental support of over $600/month while she was attending school. In FY2020, we also represented two other individuals on the identical issue, again not prevailing at the administrative hearing levels and have filed appeals in the RI Superior Court. Both sides have completing briefing and Plaintiffs’ counsel moved to assign the matters for decision. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and court delays and backlogs, the matter is still pending and is not yet assigned for decision.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
Disability Rights Rhode Island
No
n/a
B. Staff Employed
Due to the relatively small size of our P&A, DRRI staff attorneys are not assigned to one specific grant, but generally represent individuals on several grants. Attorneys are also assigned responsibility for systemic activities, which are funded by specific P&A programs.

A Staff Attorney serves as the primary liaison with the state VR agency, and serves as the CAP representative on the Statewide Rehabilitation Council, as both the Vice Chair of the Councill as well as the Chair of the SRC policy, state plan, and quality assurance subcommittee.

In FY2020, DRRI's bilingual Legal Advocate did some work on CAP and joined the SRC to enhance our connection to the Hispanic community through work on the council. This was especially helpful in working with the Council and VR to ensure that VR's surveys to consumers were culturally sensitive. The Legal Advocate also maintains a presence on the Tribal VR Council and attends quarterly meetings to keep abreast of challenges that face RI and Southern New England tribes in the VR context.

In addition, DRRI employs an Intake Advocate who works on a cross-program basis. The intake advocates screen callers to determine whether their problems fall within our office-wide priorities, collects demographic and case data, and gives referral information and resources. The Intake Advocate also provides limited short term assistance under the guidance of and in collaboration with the Director of Intake Advocacy.

Under the current system, attorneys track their time spent on serving CAP eligible clients, and these costs are billed to the CAP program.

Type Of Position / FTE / % of Year Filled / Person Years
Professional
Full-Time / 8.25 / 12.2%/1.01

Clerical
Full-Time / 3.88 /9.5% / 0.41
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
This year, CAP cases concerned the following –

We were contacted by a client who was experiencing a denial of home modifications from an independent living center. We provided an opinion of the case and provided legal advice and information about IL services. The client better understood her rights and options as a result of CAP help.

CAP was contacted after a client received a letter stating that the VR agency was closing his file allegedly because he was not able to benefit from VR services. We assisted the client with filing an appeal and requested a hearing. The agency agreed to keep the case open prior to the need for a hearing and upon follow up the client was working with VR and receiving services.


A client contacted DRRI about VR refusing to provide independent living services at an out-of-state vendor. We counseled the client who subsequently met with the VR agency and the vendor and was able to self advocate to receive the IL services needed.
Certification
Approved
Morna A. Murray
Executive Director
2020-12-22
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